US Household Wealth Update: Baby Boomers Still Control Half; Gen X Share Rising

April 13, 2022

Marketers like to focus on youth, whether that’s Millennials or Gen Z, but Baby Boomers are the big spenders. A MarketingCharts review of the latest data published by the Federal Reserve confirms that Baby Boomers hold the largest share of US household wealth. However, Gen Xers, and to some extent Millennials, are seeing their wealth climb.

As of Q4 2021, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) controlled almost exactly half (50.3%) of all US household wealth, per the latest figures, equating to about $71.6 trillion in wealth.

However, Baby Boomers’ share of household wealth is on the decline, down from 52.6% during the year-earlier period, and from more than 53% in Q4 2019. In fact, it appears that this generation’s share of wealth peaked in Q3 2016 at 55.9%, though it has not been a completely linear descent since then.

The Silent Generation’s share of US household wealth has also been on the decline, though this is likely due to population trends among this group, which was born before 1946. The youngest of this generation is 77 years old, and the 75+ age bracket in the US only comprises 7% of the population. As of Q4 2021, people of the Silent Generation or earlier controlled 13.5% share of US household wealth. Unlike Baby Boomers, this generation’s share has been in almost linear decline, falling in virtually every quarter over the past decades.

Picking up the slack have been the younger generations: Gen X, and Millennials. Gen Xers now control almost 30% (29.7%) of US household wealth, up from a quarter (25.8%) just 2 years earlier. In fact, Gen X’s share of US household wealth has more than doubled since Q4 2012.

Millennials’ share of the pie is also rising, and interestingly has jumped in the past few quarters. Consider that Millennials’ share of wealth grew only from 3.7% in Q4 2018 to 4.4% in Q4 2019, and then from that level only inched up to 4.6% in Q4 2020. By Q4 2021, though, this younger generation’s share of US household wealth had surged to 6.4%, a year-over-year relative growth of almost 40%.

Rising levels of overall US household wealth mean that even for Baby Boomers, whose share of the pot has decreased, absolute levels of wealth are up. In Q4 2021 this generation had amassed $71.59 trillion in wealth, up from $65.3 trillion a year earlier and less than $60 trillion the year before that. Baby Boomers’ level of wealth has increased every quarter since Q4 2018, even as their share of wealth has declined.

Naturally, the younger generations, which are capturing larger pieces of the pie, are enjoying even faster rises in their absolute levels of wealth. Gen Xers passed $40 trillion ($42.3 trillion) in Q4 2021 for the first time, almost doubling their level from just 3 years earlier ($21.94 trillion in Q4 2018). As for Millennials (born in 1981 or later), their $9.13 trillion in collective household wealth in Q4 2021 was more than twice their level from the beginning of 2020.

Components of Wealth Differ Among Generations

Notably, Millennials’ wealth is more likely to be tied up in real estate than other generations. In fact, more than one-third (34.3%) of Millennials’ wealth as of Q4 2021 was in the form of real estate, compared to one-quarter (25.3% share) for Gen Xers, and about one-fifth (21.4%) for Baby Boomers.

Millennials’ wealth is also far more apt to be linked to consumer durables (9.8% share) than are the wealths of Gen Xers (5% share) and Baby Boomers (3.5% share).

Instead, older generations’ wealth is more dependent on corporate equities and mutual fund shares. These comprise more than one-third (34.7%) of all of the Silent Generation’s wealth, while comprising 30.3% share of Baby Boomers’ wealth and 23.1% share of Gen Xers’ wealth. The corresponding figure for Millennials is just 7.9%.

Reaching Baby Boomers: Tech Ownership on the Rise

For marketers looking to reach the lucrative Baby Boomer generation, their tech trends shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, Baby Boomers’ tech ownership and usage continue to rise, according to a recent report [pdf] from the AARP. Among adults ages 60-69 (the Baby Boomer age range is roughly 58-76), almost 9 in 10 (88%) own a smartphone, according to the study. Meanwhile 7 in 10 have or own a smart TV, 6 in 10 a tablet, and almost 4 in 10 (39%) a smart assistant. Moreover, some 72% of adults in this age group surveyed in late 2021 reported having purchased a new tech item in the previous year, spending an average of $872 on tech products for themselves or their households.

The AARP notes in its report that “ownership among those 50-59 are reaching a possible plateau, while those 60-69 have steady growth in all primary devices.”

About the Data: The AARP report is based on a survey of 2,063 US adults ages 50 and older conducted in September and October 2021.

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